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Command Palette

Textual apps have a built-in command palette, which gives users a quick way to access certain functionality within your app.

In this chapter we will explain what a command palette is, how to use it, and how you can add your own commands.

Launching the command palette

Press Ctrl + \ (ctrl and backslash) to invoke the command palette screen, which contains of a single input widget. Textual will suggest commands as you type in that input. Press Up or Down to select a command from the list, and Enter to invoke it.

Commands are looked up via a fuzzy search, which means Textual will show commands that match the keys you type in the same order, but not necessarily at the start of the command. For instance the "Toggle light/dark mode" command will be shown if you type "to" (for toggle), but you could also type "dm" (to match dark mode). This scheme allows the user to quickly get to a particular command with a minimum of key-presses.

ViewerApp ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔ 🔎Command Palette Search... Quit the application Quit the application as soon as possible Ring the bell Ring the terminal's 'bell' Toggle light/dark mode Toggle the application between light and dark mode ▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁

ViewerApp ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔ 🔎t Toggle light/dark mode Toggle the application between light and dark mode Quit the application Quit the application as soon as possible Ring the bell Ring the terminal's 'bell' ▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁

ViewerApp ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔ 🔎td Toggle light/dark mode Toggle the application between light and dark mode ▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁▁

Default commands

Textual apps have the following commands enabled by default:

  • "Toggle light/dark mode" This will toggle between light and dark mode, by setting App.dark to either True or False.
  • "Quit the application" Quits the application. The equivalent of pressing ++ctrl+C++.
  • "Play the bell" Plays the terminal bell, by calling App.bell.

Command providers

To add your own command(s) to the command palette, define a command.Provider class then add it to the COMMANDS class var on your App class.

Let's look at a simple example which adds the ability to open Python files via the command palette.

The following example will display a blank screen initially, but if you bring up the command palette and start typing the name of a Python file, it will show the command to open it.


If you are running that example from the repository, you may want to add some additional Python files to see how the examples works with multiple files.
from __future__ import annotations

from functools import partial
from pathlib import Path

from import App, ComposeResult
from textual.command import Hit, Hits, Provider
from textual.containers import VerticalScroll
from textual.widgets import Static

class PythonFileCommands(Provider):
    """A command provider to open a Python file in the current working directory."""

    def read_files(self) -> list[Path]:
        """Get a list of Python files in the current working directory."""
        return list(Path("./").glob("*.py"))

    async def startup(self) -> None:  # (1)!
        """Called once when the command palette is opened, prior to searching."""
        worker =, thread=True)
        self.python_paths = await worker.wait()

    async def search(self, query: str) -> Hits:  # (2)!
        """Search for Python files."""
        matcher = self.matcher(query)  # (3)!

        app =
        assert isinstance(app, ViewerApp)

        for path in self.python_paths:
            command = f"open {str(path)}"
            score = matcher.match(command)  # (4)!
            if score > 0:
                yield Hit(
                    matcher.highlight(command),  # (5)!
                    partial(app.open_file, path),
                    help="Open this file in the viewer",

class ViewerApp(App):
    """Demonstrate a command source."""

    COMMANDS = App.COMMANDS | {PythonFileCommands}  # (6)!

    def compose(self) -> ComposeResult:
        with VerticalScroll():
            yield Static(id="code", expand=True)

    def open_file(self, path: Path) -> None:
        """Open and display a file with syntax highlighting."""
        from rich.syntax import Syntax

        syntax = Syntax.from_path(
        self.query_one("#code", Static).update(syntax)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    app = ViewerApp()
  1. This method is called when the command palette is first opened.
  2. Called on each key-press.
  3. Get a Matcher instance to compare against hits.
  4. Use the matcher to get a score.
  5. Highlights matching letters in the search.
  6. Adds our custom command provider and the default command provider.

There are four methods you can override in a command provider: startup, search, discover and shutdown. All of these methods should be coroutines (async def). Only search is required, the other methods are optional. Let's explore those methods in detail.

startup method

The startup method is called when the command palette is opened. You can use this method as way of performing work that needs to be done prior to searching. In the example, we use this method to get the Python (.py) files in the current working directory.

search method

The search method is responsible for finding results (or hits) that match the user's input. This method should yield Hit objects for any command that matches the query argument.

Exactly how the matching is implemented is up to the author of the command provider, but we recommend using the builtin fuzzy matcher object, which you can get by calling matcher. This object has a match() method which compares the user's search term against the potential command and returns a score. A score of zero means no hit, and you can discard the potential command. A score of above zero indicates the confidence in the result, where 1 is an exact match, and anything lower indicates a less confident match.

The Hit contains information about the score (used in ordering) and how the hit should be displayed, and an optional help string. It also contains a callback, which will be run if the user selects that command.

In the example above, the callback is a lambda which calls the open_file method in the example app.


Unlike most other places in Textual, errors in command provider will not exit the app. This is a deliberate design decision taken to prevent a single broken Provider class from making the command palette unusable. Errors in command providers will be logged to the console.

discover method

The discover method is responsible for providing results (or discovery hits) that should be shown to the user when the command palette input is empty; this is to aid in command discoverability.


Because discover hits are shown the moment the command palette is opened, these should ideally be quick to generate; commands that might take time to generate are best left for search -- use discover to help the user easily find the most important commands.

discover is similar to search but with these differences:

  • discover accepts no parameters (instead of the search value)
  • discover yields instances of DiscoveryHit (instead of instances of Hit)
  • discovery hits are sorted in ascending alphabetical order because there is no matching and no match score is generated

Instances of DiscoveryHit contain information about how the hit should be displayed, an optional help string, and a callback which will be run if the user selects that command.

shutdown method

The shutdown method is called when the command palette is closed. You can use this as a hook to gracefully close any objects you created in startup.

Screen commands

You can also associate commands with a screen by adding a COMMANDS class var to your Screen class.

Commands defined on a screen are only considered when that screen is active. You can use this to implement commands that are specific to a particular screen, that wouldn't be applicable everywhere in the app.

Disabling the command palette

The command palette is enabled by default. If you would prefer not to have the command palette, you can set ENABLE_COMMAND_PALETTE = False on your app class.

Here's an app class with no command palette:

class NoPaletteApp(App):